Julie’s first day at Flower Elementary School just happened to be the day before Valentine Day. At breakfast that morning she felt sick.
“You’re probably just nervous,” her mom said. “Going to a new school can be scary.”
Julie did feel scared as she walked into the school yard. Everywhere she looked, she saw children she didn’t know. She wondered if she’d ever make friends.
Julie and her mom found her classroom and met her new teacher. Then Mom went home.
The teacher asked each of Julie’s new classmates to give his name and tell about something that he liked. Julie tried to remember everyone, but it was too hard.
After all the children had introduced themselves, the teacher talked about the valentine party for the next day. “You’re here just in time for the fun,” she said to Julie, handing her a written list of everyone’s name.
After school Julie told her mom about her day. “I’ll feel bad at the party because I don’t really know anyone yet.”
“Why not use the party to make new friends?” Mom suggested. “Give a special valentine to everyone in your class.”
Yes, Julie thought, I can do that. I’ll try to make extra-special valentines.
The first name on the list that her teacher had given her was Kim Anderson. Julie remembered Kim because she seemed nice. “I like cats and picnics,” Kim had said. So I’ll draw a picture of a cat having a picnic for Kim’s valentine, Julie decided.
She read the other names on the list and remembered what six of the children had said that they liked. For those that she couldn’t remember, she decided to draw hearts and cute stuffed animals.
When Julie explained her plan, Mom smiled and took her to the crafts store for supplies. Julie was picking out poster board when her stomach began to itch. She scratched it with her left hand and grabbed a sheet of pink poster board with her right one.
Back in the car Julie scratched her stomach again. Mom peeked under Julie’s sweater. “Oh, honey,” she said, “you’re coming down with the chicken pox. No wonder you didn’t feel well this morning.”
They drove right to Dr. Elder’s. “You just have a mild case of chicken pox,” he said. “Take it easy and don’t scratch. And no school for about a week.”
“No school!” Julie wailed when she got home. “Can’t I at least go to the party? I was going to make lots of friends with my special valentines.”
“I’m sorry, dear, but there will be other ways to make new friends when you can go back to school—you’ll see.”
The next morning Julie watched through the living room window as other children walked to school. She saw Kim and another girl from her class and plenty of children whom she didn’t know. They all chattered happily as they walked, making Julie feel lonelier than ever.
Even though Mom smeared lotion on Julie’s itchy blisters and read stories to her and played games with her, when two o’clock came, she felt especially sad because that was the time that the valentine party was supposed to start.
“I would have taken your valentines to school if I’d realized how much it meant to you,” Mom said.
“I didn’t make them, anyway,” Julie reminded her mom. “I was too tired to cut out that many hearts.”
Mom nodded. “That’s too much cutting for a girl with chicken pox.”
Then Julie had an idea. She could make one valentine by the time the children walked home from school. Working fast, she drew a giant heart on the poster board and cut it out and used a red crayon to write “Let’s be friends” on it. Then she drew a cat having a picnic, a truck, a horse, a baseball bat, a dog, some flowers, and some hearts. At the bottom she added, “I’m sick with chicken pox, but I’d still like to be your valentine. Julie.”
Mom helped her tape the giant heart to the living room window.
Soon dozens of children were walking past her house. They all looked at her valentine, but she didn’t recognize any of them. Then Kim came down the street. As soon as she saw the window, she pointed at it and called to other kids. Julie recognized them—they were her new classmates! She waved to them, but they had gathered together and were talking and didn’t wave back. Still talking, they sat on Julie’s lawn and acted very busy.
At last they stood, walked up to Julie’s front door, dropped envelopes into the mail slot and grinned and waved to her as they went on down the street.
Julie waved back enthusiastically, a big smile on her own face. Then she sat on the sofa and opened the envelopes. What fun it was. She had valentines from five children in her class—and even some from children in other classes! Her favorite one had a picture of a cat saying:
“To my chicken-pox valentine—
Get well so that we can have a picnic together.
Your friend, Kim.”